BALTIMORE -- When Cedric Mullins first reached the Majors down the stretch in 2018, he was widely viewed as the Orioles’ heir apparent to Adam Jones in center field. The passing of the torch was not linear, the transition not without some considerable ups and downs. But Mullins looks like that player now, his ascendant, potentially All-Star first half catching the attention of the baseball world far and wide.
That includes Jones, now 35, who is in his second season with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. Nearly three years after Mullins replaced Jones in center field, the two remain connected. Jones went out of his way to support Mullins recently from afar, interviewing the O’s center fielder on the latest episode of his “Heckle Deez” podcast, which he co-hosts with Reginald Fuggett.
“It’s a roughly 13-hour time difference, but I was able to make it work,” Mullins told MLB.com. “It was really good talking to him.”
Jones and Mullins discussed a variety of topics over the course of their 30-minute conversation, from Mullins’ decision to jettison switch-hitting this season to the ins and outs of the Orioles’ rebuild. Mullins is the fourth past or present Oriole to appear on Jones’ podcast, along with Trey Mancini, Delmon Young and L.J. Hoes. Through a spokesperson, Jones declined comment for this story.
“He reached out to me and continues to motivate me and tells me to continue doing what I’m doing, keep striving forward,” Mullins told MLB.com. “I’m the kind of person that kind of keeps to himself, and likes to get a feel for people before I open up. He's on the opposite end of that spectrum. [When we were teammates], he wanted to make me feel as comfortable as possible as soon as possible, because I feel like he had an idea for my abilities on the field.”
Those are now plain to see, with Mullins among the AL leaders in hitting (.315; fifth), hits (81; second), OPS (.901; ninth) Outs Above Average (7; tied for fifth) and Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (3.0; third) entering play Friday. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a player who found himself back in Double-A in 2019, less than a year after replacing Jones, abandoned switch-hitting last winter and had to win back Baltimore’s starting center field job this spring.
“I’ve been watching what’s been going on and right now, you are as hot as the cicadas that have consumed the city [of Baltimore]!” Jones told Mullins on his podcast.
Mullins said he and Jones speak occasionally off the air, enough that when Jones reached out about the podcast, Mullins did not hesitate. Looking back, Mullins said the pressure of replacing Jones in center led to his struggles in 2019 and ’20, and he credited Jones with helping him persevere through those struggles.
“Putting all that in the past and continuing to strive forward has really helped, and I’m making great strides on the field today,” Mullins told MLB.com. “I have a pretty large support group, so I can't necessarily pinpoint exactly one person because there's a lot of people that are in your corner during times of uncertainty, times of lack of confidence. Every individual person who was in my corner, including Jonesey, my family, my friends, the coaching staff, I give all of them credit for sticking by me through that time.”
One of the city’s most vocal and beloved athletes during his 11 years in Baltimore, Jones has been open about his desire to reconnect with the Orioles since leaving as a free agent after the 2018 season, even casually saying on Instagram he’d like to manage the team one day. For now, he’s content being a high-profile member of Mullins’ growing fan club.
“Just know, I'm always watching,” Jones told Mullins on the podcast. “No matter where I'm at in the world, I'm always watching because I got the ties, I got the passion, I got the love for that organization. So continue to grind and continue to thrive, brother.”
The entire episode, as well as all of Jones’ podcasts, can be streamed here: https://www.heckledeez.com/.